Clashes erupt at Belarus-Poland border as refugee crisis unfolds

Clashes erupt at Belarus-Poland border as refugee crisis unfolds

Polish forces used tear gas and water cannon on refugees who allegedly threw stones at border guards.


Sokolka, Poland – Clashes have erupted between stranded refugees and Polish border guards at the Polish-Belarusian border.

The chaos unfolded late morning on Tuesday, with refugees stranded at the Kuznica border crossing reportedly throwing stones at Polish guards.

The guards responded by using water cannon and tear gas against those who have been trying to cross the border, according to Poland’s Ministry of National Defence (MOD).

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“The use of force [by Poland] is completely unjustifiable because there are legal procedures which should be used from the very beginning,” said Marta Szymanderska from Grupa Granica, a coalition of NGOs which are responding to the humanitarian crisis at the border. “The actions of the Polish forces are not only illegal but also inhuman,” she told Al Jazeera.

The MOD said: “The migrants attacked our soldiers and guards with stones and are trying to force the fence to get to the Polish territory.

“Our forces used tear gas to thwart the aggression of migrants.”

It was unclear if there were any injuries among refugees, while at least one policeman was wounded.

The Polish Border Guard said: “Illegal migrants have been gathering at the border crossing in Kuźnica, at the Belarusian side. New groups, which so far have been squatting at the border, are joining them. An attempt to forcefully cross the border is being prepared. Everything is taking place under the supervision of Belarusian forces.”

Earlier on Tuesday, more Polish police and security forces arrived at the border to prevent what Polish authorities claimed was an attempt by migrants to illegally cross into Polish – and European Union – territory.

Video footage posted on social media showed people near the border running away after being sprayed with water cannon.